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Musician Disabled in Car Crash Can Now Play Again

Thibaut Demare
Creative Commons/Flickr
Technology is helping phyically disabled musicians play music again.

When a car accident nearly 30 years ago left violinist Rosemary Johnson mostly unable to move, her musical career came to a tragic end. Until now.

Johnson, now 50, was a member of the Welsh National Opera Orchestra when in 1988 a car crash left her in a coma for seven months. When she emerged from the coma, she had lost her ability to speak and most of her ability to move. Playing the violin again was out of the question.

But according to the Daily Mail, professor Eduardo Miranda, head of the Interdisciplinary Centre for computer Music research at Great Britain’s Plymouth University, and researchers at the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability in London have created technology that enables physically disabled musicians to perform music again.

The technology is called Brain Computer Musical Interface (BCMI) Phyically disabled musicians wear EEG caps with electrodes that can track the electrical information – thoughts, if you will – their brains create. Each cap is hooked up to a computer. The musicians wearing the caps see choices of melodies they can choose with their thoughts to “play.” Their selections appear as musical notes on computer screens that musicians with all their movement skills then play.

Johnson and three other physically disabled musicians used the technology to record a work entitled Activating Memory. The Bergerson String Quartet gave the work an “experimental world premiere” in February 2014 at Plymouth’s Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival, which Miranda co-directs.

Watch this video of Activating Memory:


Read more:

  • Violinist Who Could Not Play for 26 Years after a Car Crash Is Now Making Music Again Using Just Her Mind (Daily Mail)
Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.